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Pianist hails abuse memoir victory

Published 20/05/2015

Concert pianist James Rhodes (right) leaves the Supreme Court in London with actor Benedict Cumberbatch
Concert pianist James Rhodes (right) leaves the Supreme Court in London with actor Benedict Cumberbatch

A concert pianist has said a Supreme Court ruling giving him the go-ahead to release a book detailing sexual abuse he suffered as a child is a victory for freedom of speech - and victims.

James Rhodes, 40, persuaded Supreme Court justices to lift an injunction which barred publication of his autobiographical book, Instrumental.

Mr Rhodes was at the Supreme Court in London to hear a panel of justices rule in his favour - and was joined by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a friend from his school days.

The Court of Appeal had granted an injunction temporarily blocking publication of parts of the book after Mr Rhodes' ex-wife raised fears that detail would come to the attention of their 12-year-old son and cause him ''serious harm''.

Mr Rhodes then asked the Supreme Court for a ruling.

Five Supreme Court justices announced the decision today after analysing the case at a hearing in London in January.

Justices had ruled that Mr Rhodes could not be identified in media reports or on social media channels.

That restriction was lifted today in the light of the ruling.

They said Mr Rhodes could be named but said the names of his son and ex-wife should not be made public.

Mr Rhodes and Mr Cumberbatch hugged outside the court

"This is a victory for freedom of speech," said Mr Rhodes.

"If this had been allowed to continue anyone could have used this to ban any book.

"We do not ban books in this country."

He said the decision also sent a message to children who were victims of abuse and added: "I was told not to tell when I was a child. Children are told not to tell. The message is 'tell someone'. This is a victory for victims."

And he said his son would not be harmed by the book - which is due to be published in the near future.

"I love him more than anything. I am his father," said Mr Rhodes.

"He is not going to read the book. This is not a children's book."

Mr Cumberbatch added: "We have been friends since school. I am here to give my support.

He went on: "It is a very emotional moment ... It is a searing vindication of freedom of speech."

Justices were told that Mr Rhodes had obtained a ''high degree of distinction'' in his career despite having a ''tormented childhood''.

Mr Rhodes was sexually abused at school by a boxing coach and had been ''traumatised'' - suffering episodes of ''severe mental illness'' and self-harming.

He argued that the book contained an ''important message of encouragement'' to those who had suffered similar abuse.

Mr Rhodes' son lives with his mother and has learning difficulties, justices heard.

The boy's mother said he is ''particularly intelligent'' and ''very proud'' of his father.

She said he did not know about the sexual abuse or the scale of his father's self-harm and mental illness.

It was argued that if the youngster became aware of the scale of sexual abuse and self-harm described in the book, he would be unable to cope and become ''greatly disturbed''.

Appeal judges had ruled in favour of the boy's mother, saying an injunction should be granted, restraining publication of parts of the book pending any final trial of the issues.

They had overturned a High Court ruling by Mr Justice Bean, who had concluded that an injunction should be refused.

A lawyer representing Mr Rhodes said the injunction could have a ''chilling effect'' on free speech.

Hugh Tomlinson QC told the Supreme Court the book was a ''true autobiographical account'' and there was "a clear public interest in publication".

He said courts should not become involved in editorship and ''matters of taste''.

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